Thalidomide for the Management of Gastrointestinal Bleeding in a Palliative Care Setting

Elisabeth Fabian, Oliver Königsbrügge, Guenter J Krejs, Matthias Unseld

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Review article


BACKGROUND: Palliative care patients frequently present with clinically significant gastrointestinal bleeding. Due to the existence of confounding comorbidities and a remarkably reduced state of general health in many cases, the management of gastrointestinal bleeding in this population is often challenging.

SUMMARY: This review summarizes and discusses the role of thalidomide in gastrointestinal bleeding with a special focus on palliative care patients. In addition, an illustrative case report is presented. Thalidomide may be beneficial in gastrointestinal bleeding by exerting antiangiogenic effects. The drug has an acceptable safety profile. Side effects like neurotoxicity may limit its use but can be monitored safely. Due to thalidomide's thrombin generation potential, patients managed with thalidomide-containing regimes should be closely monitored for deep venous thrombosis. Given its teratogenicity, thalidomide should not be administered to women of childbearing potential who are not using adequate contraception.

KEY MESSAGE: Physicians caring for patients in a palliative care setting should be aware of thalidomide as an effective therapeutic option when endoscopy fails to find a bleeding source or for those patients who cannot or refuse to undergo endoscopy but present with recurrent or obscure gastrointestinal bleeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
JournalDigestive Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Humans
  • Female
  • Thalidomide/adverse effects
  • Palliative Care
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage/drug therapy


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